In the face of widespread disturbance in Kolkata in the face of widespread rioting to protest Nandigram and to demand the visa cancellation of Taslima Nasreen.

Predictable buffoonery followed – with CPI(M)’s State Secretary Biman Bose, asking for Taslima to leave West Bengal if her presence caused law and order issues.

Two issues there – one, law and order is a prerogative of the state government – so if “law and order” fails owing to a three hour shutdown called by a Muslim fringe group – then the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the state government. Rather than to deal with the issue at hand (which was dealt with, since the Army was called out), to ask Taslima to leave is just playing the oft-played minority card the CPI(M) has done so many times in the past. Maybe now is a time to reconsider that abhorrent policy of the state government to hand out ration cards and other citizenship papers to illegal Bangladeshi immigrants – as we have come to see in Pakistan, these strategies always come back to bite the hand that feeds it.

Secondly, and much more importantly, we are an open society. We bengalis always like to claim our intellectual evolution in the finer arts – literature, poetry, music. So in asking a writer who has been hounded out of her own country because her writing is apparently inflammatory – is playing to the exact same fringe religiously fanatical groups that most would like to keep on the sidelines of meaningful society.

Bigger question is – how does the secretary of the ruling state government party have the latitude to ask a writer to leave – a person who has engaged in nothing unlawful. She is a writer who writes things that a lot of people find distasteful. But does that merit in asking for her expulsion? And the revoking of her visa? I thought we allowed for all opinions. I thought we were a state where free speech was valued and respected. Apparently, like many other things, not anymore – in West Bengal.

I find the general direction of absolutism in West Bengal extremely disconcerting. Whether it is Nandigram ( popular dissonance against government sponsored land-grab and violence) or be it this now – it seems that apart from being increasingly left out from the dynamic India we all hear about everyday, Bengal is regressing in this moral and political quagmire that seems more and more irrevocable.

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